Canada: Still Glorious and Free?



July 1, 2024
Available in Audio Format:

God keep our land glorious and free.

The opening line of the chorus of the Canadian national anthem has been the unofficial motto of ARPA for the past several years. We sing the anthem, and this line, at almost every presentation that we host. We sing this line as a prayer to God, asking Him to keep our land glorious and free. But it also is a declaration that Canada is glorious and free. After all, how can we keep being glorious and free if we weren’t glorious and free in the first place?

And yet a growing refrain we hear is that Canada is now broken, a dictatorship, a totalitarian country, or even a communist/socialist regime. We’ve heard one pastor say that he was a single-issue voter on the issue of freedom. To many Canadians, our freedoms are on the decline and the only thing to care about in politics is whether this party or that party would safeguard and restore our freedoms. Many of you responded to our recent social media poll on whether Canada is glorious and free or not, and the majority of you stated that we aren’t a free country anymore.

But how do we verify whether we are a free country or not? And how can we measure if our freedoms are decreasing or if they are on the rise? We can count votes, measure dollars, and evaluate medical wait times, but is it possible to measure freedom?

Three well known reports – the Human Freedom Index, the Democracy Index, and the Freedom in the World report – attempt to quantify how free Canada and other countries around the world are.  But before we look at these reports, we should remind ourselves of what freedom actually is.

What is Freedom?

The various reports define freedom as “the absence of coercive constraint” and the “right [of people] to lead their lives as they wish as long as they respect the equal rights of others.” In other words, they define freedom as freedom from government (and in some cases, freedom from social pressures, big businesses, or religious morals). So, generally speaking, the fewer the laws, the greater the freedom.

Christians, on the other hand, shouldn’t view freedom so much as freedom from government laws, as if the government was intrinsically bad or that the only thing that we need to be free from is the government. Fundamentally, Christians recognize that human beings need to be free from slavery to sin. True freedom is found in Jesus Christ and His transformative work in our personal lives and in our institutions. We don’t just need to be free from sinful abuses of power by the government, but from abuses of power from all institutions in society. And we need to be personally free from sin that affects our personal lives: addiction, greed, sexual immorality, etc.

But we are called not only to freedom from things but freedom for things. Galatians 5:13 says that we are “called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Or consider 1 Peter 2:16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” Biblically speaking, freedom isn’t only – or even primarily – something that we get to enjoy ourselves. It is something that we use to serve God and our neighbours. Christian freedom is selfless, not selfish.

So, keeping in mind the difference between a popular understanding of freedom (the absence of coercive constraint) and the Christian understanding of freedom (freedom from sin and for service to God and neighbour), let’s consider how a few reports measure freedom in Canada. Although they don’t define freedom quite the way that we’d like them to, they do provide a glimpse into how free Canada is in the context of the entire world.

Freedom Reports

For the last two decades, the Fraser Institute has published a “Human Freedom Index” to measure and compare how free countries are. They take 86 economic freedom and personal freedom variables, rate each of them on a scale of 1-10 (one being the worst and ten being the best) and weigh and average them to spit out a single freedom number.

In the most recent Human Freedom Index which covers the year 2021, Canada had a human freedom score of 8.55 out of 10, good enough to rank Canada as the 13th freest country in the world. Only three scores in Canada were below eight out of ten. These scores were in the domains of:

  • Size of government (6.3)
  • Freedom of movement (6.5)
  • Rule of law (7.8)

Canada scored between eight and nine in:

  • Regulation (8.0)
  • Freedom to trade internationally (8.1)
  • Legal system and property rights (8.3)

Canada scored the most highly (above nine) in all the remaining domains:

  • Sound money (9.2)
  • Freedom of association, assembly, and civil society (9.5)
  • Security and safety (9.6)
  • Freedom of religion (9.6)
  • Freedom of expression and information (9.8)
  • Relationships (10.0)

Another freedom report is the Democracy Index produced by the Economist Intelligence Unite. Although democracy and freedom aren’t synonymous, there are similarities. The Democracy Index accounts for the freedom to vote, the freedom to participate in politics, and civil liberties as important for democracy to function. In the latest Democracy Index, Canada’s score had declined from an all-time high of 9.24 in (pre-pandemic) 2020 to 8.88 in 2022. Yet, Canada still ranked as the 12th most democratic country in the world.

Canada scores even better in Freedom House’s index, which is largely derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and measures electoral process, political pluralism and participation, functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, associational rights, the rule of law, personal autonomy and individual rights. In their 2024 report, Canada earned a perfect score in every category except government openness and transparency (due to lousy freedom of access to government records and data), religious freedom (due to Quebec’s ban on government employees wearing religious symbols), and equal treatment of various segments of the population (due to discrimination against Black and Indigenous Canadians). Canada thus scored 97 out of 100, tied for the 5th freest country in the world.

All three of these reports – the Human Freedom Index, Democracy Index, and Freedom House Report – come to the same conclusion: compared to all the other countries in the world, Canada is one of the freest.

How to Respond

Now, to the average Reformed Christian living in 2024, that might seem like a rather generous score. We might be tempted to dismiss these scores and rankings because they don’t match our perception of diminishing freedoms. And, to be sure, our freedoms have been eroded over the past decades. But there are almost 200 countries in the world right now and human history has lasted over 620 decades. Each of us have only lived for a few decades in (at most) a few countries. With such a limited perspective we can often take for granted the freedoms that we do enjoy, things like the rule of law, security and safety, a sound legal system, property rights, sound money, and freedom of religion, association, assembly, civil society, expression, and information. These freedoms are rare in the world and rare throughout human history. In these respects, Canada is one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world, as reflected in these three reports.

And in a country that is glorious and free, we don’t just sing the national anthem or attend a Canada Day parade. We need to live it! Use your freedom to serve both God and your neighbour. We can certainly voice concerns that freedoms are diminishing – the reports shared above suggest that indeed is happening – and we should fight to preserve these hard-fought freedoms. But we should also recognize that there aren’t too many countries in the world today, or too many eras in world history, that have seen greater freedom and greater democracy than 21st century Canada.

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